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Windy City Paperback – April 14, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his second novel, the host of National Public Radio's Weekend Edition paints a detailed portrait of Chicago politics, beginning with the sudden death of the mayor. The focus quickly shifts to Indian vice-mayor Sunny Roopini, who must assuage a traumatized electorate while laying down a few paving stones for the mayor's successor. Matters are further complicated when the police discover deadly amounts of liquid nicotine on the late mayor's pizza, a revelation that inspires a mayoral staffer to leap from his apartment window. Roopini's brief interim mayorship proves to be a minefield of favors, accommodations and downright extortion—the latter by a U.S. Attorney determined to dig up any ethical hiccup he can. The suffocating political life is enough to beckon Roopini toward retirement (particularly with his two daughters on the cusp of adulthood), but the city doesn't seem willing to let him go. The proceedings can be fascinating, but Simon is too attached to his (admittedly impressive) descriptive powers, dragging the narrative through a swamp of mannerisms, fashion sketches, culinary processes and (especially) political maneuvering. Politics junkies will get off on the detail, but readers with less than a passing interest in the sausage-making that goes on at City Hall may be frustrated. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

When the mayor of Chicago is mysteriously murdered while eating pizza, 48th Ward alderman Sunny Roopini becomes acting mayor. A recent widower, Sonny struggles to keep his teenage daughters and restaurant under control. The revelations that come in the wake of the mayor’s death are perhaps more than he can handle. To add to the chaos are a collection of subplots, each worthy of its own novel: an alderman revealed to be gay, another revealed to be on the take, and a third in love with a drug dealer. Fans of NPR’s “Weekend Edition” will recognize Simon’s charm and love of all things Chicago. His characters are all fascinating and complex. However, there are a few too many to keep track of, and the political details and intrigues occasionally threaten to overshadow the sweet and affecting story of Roopini’s grief and growth. --Marta Segal Block --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081297669X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812976694
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #966,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Igasaki on April 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Windy City: A Novel of Politics
Windy City is a fun book that parodies Chicago politics and urban ethnic culture in the course of a murder. Scott Simon is the ideal author for such a book. Like me, he is a "Chicagoan Away" as described in his memoir Home and Away. And, like that book, it treats one familiar with Chicago geography, politics and ethnicity with waves of nostalgia and authenticity.

The story revolves around the Alderman of Chicago's 48th Ward, an Indian American restaurant owner serving as Vice Mayor when the African American Mayor, his ally, dies - from a poisoned pizza. He assumes the role of Acting Mayor as described in the Chicago charter and as happened after the deaths of Richard J. Daley and Harold Washington, especially Harold Washington.

Like any book of this kind, it pledges that the characters are fictional. But the similarities of some with real life characters are inescapable. The murdered Mayor has some remarkable similarities to the city's only African American Mayor Harold Washington. I worked for Harold as counsel to city's civil rights agency and as his liaison to the city's Asian Americans. Much of my job came close to the world of this book. Like the murdered Mayor, Harold used long words, ate as with the same gusto that he practiced politics ( I remember taking him to Korean, Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants - he returned to some after closing for extra helpings). And he died at his desk also, though from a heart attack not from a poisoned pizza. Like this Mayor, his sexuality took second place to his politics.
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Format: Hardcover
I have always thought that Scott Simon was one of the best writers in broadcasting. More often then not, I have found myself sitting back in my kitchen on a Saturday morning and taking in his words as they flow almost effortlessly from my radio. I also know that writing like this is never effortless. The man has great talent.

Now it appears this talent has translated to fiction as well. And that's not as easy as people might think. Consider asking a pediatrician to perform brain surgery tomorrow. Writing for radio and fiction are really very different forms.

Simon has captured a marvelous look at our country in the beginning of the 21st century by focusing on, of all things, the colorful politics of Cook County. When you really think about it, what could possibly be more American? And he has accomplished this with his great humor and vivid knack for description.

I don't often laugh out loud when I am reading books. I did here. I also found the opening description of a politician's view of what it takes to get votes and what it means to enter the arena as one of the single best descriptions of our flawed and fabulous democratic system. I have read it over several times, as I did other passages in this really great book.

Finally, a personal story: a few years ago, I was visiting a friend who lives on the north side of Chicago. She and her husband live with their one daughter in a three bedroom home that was once owned by a Catholic family with ten children. It was summer and we were sitting on the front porch. She described her neighborhood by the people who passed by. There was a gay couple pushing a baby carriage. There was "Big Ed", the retired Chicago Cop who chatted with the couple. There were at least three different nationalities.
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Format: Hardcover
Scott Simon's "Windy City" has all the elements for an entertaining political mystery/adventure novel. The characters are good, the settings are superbly described, the heart is there, the mystery of a murdered mayor is deftly handled, and the ending warms the heart. So why is the book so tedious to read? The problem is that Simon over-researched this book. While he might find it fascinating to describe the ethnic make up of all 50 wards that comprise the city, most readers do not. So much of the book is delegated to long passages describing alderman and their relationship with their ethnic constituents, to the point that the mystery of the murder is almost forgotten. Oddly, this mayor seems to be a Harold Washington type, although the actual Washington is mentioned as a past mayor. The Daleys (Richard J. and Richard M.) are also long gone. For some reason, Simon seems to feel that the era of the white male mayor are long gone, but gives no logical reason for stating this.
Acting mayor Sunny Roopini, of Indian extraction,is an engaging character and the book brightens when he's front and center. It's a pity that he doesn't do more to get to the bottom of the mystery. Instead, the book flits around strange, unresolved events such as a suicide of a mayoral top aide and an alderwoman's weepy confession of an impolitic love affair in the past. These and many other plot points make the novel wobble perilously off course before coming to its logical and long-in-coming conclusion.
A judicious editor could have done quite a bit in trimming the unneeded miscellaneous information and tightened the plot. A four-star book is lurking here, too bad it's hiding under a pile of random facts.
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